No Buko, No Pie


Day 114: Butandings

butanding 2_optAnd this was how close I got.

Chieko and I hopped on our second adventure to fly to Cebu. My dive master friend, Louie, recommended the area rather than Donsol because of its clearer waters and smaller crowds. It was still considered a bit of a secret in April, as seen by a yet undeveloped beach resort. Not that we were complaining.

Once in Cebu City, we went to South Terminal to catch a bus to Oslob. An aircon bus (they call the line Ceres) leaves every 15mins. When you enter the terminal, you have to pay P5, and then proceed to Gate 15 where the bus to Oslob is parked. Tell the conductor that you’re going to Oslob or Tanaw-an, Oslob and they easily can detect you are going for the butanding and they know where to drop you off. After 2.5 hours, the conductor was waking us up as we had just pulled over in front of the resort.

We immediately got ourselves prepared for the butanding experience. If you plan to stay in the boat, you pay them, P300; if you plan to swim with them, that’s P500 even if you brought your own mask + snorkel, like in my case. (These were the rates in April 2012. It may have increased by now.)

They said that they accommodate 10 people in a boat and we made friends with them. After  a little orientation, we were on a boat with a group of cousins and Sylvia, a French traveler. The experience was said to be just strictly 30 minutes, and I had an issue with that. After some cutesy negotiating, the boatmen were considerate and allowed us to be there for an hour.

Phase 1: Excitement. Riding with a group of equally excited adventurers.

Phase 1: Excitement. Riding with a group of equally excited adventurers.

The waters were clear and in no time a flock of butandings started to approach us. The whole experience will make you experience a whole spectrum of emotions akin to my experience in Jellyfish Lake. At first, a great anticipation, followed by bewilderment, a sense of peace and tranquility, and finally panic when they finally become too comfortable with your presence and start coming close to you.

Phase 2: "Wooooowwwww!"

Phase 2: “Wooooowwwww!”

It was so serene and they were so majestic. At some point when there was no one surrounding me, it really felt so special that these whale sharks would just come really close to you, sometimes even 2 at a time.

Phase 3: Peaceful and feeling like time has stopped.

Phase 3: Peaceful and feeling like time has stopped.

Like Jaws, except it isn't.

Like Jaws, except it isn’t.

But as the staff said, be mindful of the following: no flash photography, keep a distance of 3 meters from their body, 4 meters from their tail, and do not ever touch nor feed them.

Phase 4: After a while, when the whale sharks got soooo close - screw serene - we were screaming cause "HOMAYGAWD!! THE TAIL! THE TAIIIIIIILLLLLL!!!"

Phase 4: After a while, when the whale sharks got soooo close – screw serene – we were screaming cause “HOMAYGAWD!! THE TAIL! THE TAIIIIIIILLLLLL!!!”

So that was me pulling up my knees when a butanding suddenly emerged from under me. While we were oriented well and had every intention following these guidelines, the whale sharks sorely needed their own orientation.

Noticeable there were fishermen feeding these whale sharks. They think they are doing them a favor, but it is altering their natural behavior. Later, I was able to chat with the resort owner who proudly told me the whale sharks come all year round because they feed them. That was sad.

Feed me, pare.

Feed me, pare.

All-in-all, we had >15 sightings of butandings, but they could very well be just 5 of them that just came back again and again. Not a minute would pass without an encounter with them, sometimes 2 to 5 at a time. Best animal encounter ever? Maybe not for me. However, it’s certainly tied up with jelly fish lake and reef sharks for top position. (Butandings would claim top spot depending on my mood). But Oslob’s clear waters and sure sightings did not disappoint. Plus, it did not take much paddling to reach the area where these butandings come out.

I didn’t notice the time much, but I knew it was long and was probably an hour anyway. The experience was well worth it!

After some photo-ops and a quick shower (as there were still limited shower rooms at that time), Chieko and I waited for the bus that will take us to Bato, Cebu where we would be boarding another bus to Moalboal.

View from across the resort. Now you have contact details. (This photo taken in April 2012)

View from across the resort. It says to contact Marilyn (+6390685693895, or +639335835736). This photo was taken in April 2012.

P.S.

Right across the resort is Sumilon Island. HERE’S A TIPID TIP: Netnet, the manager that day, said that she can arrange for a boat good for 15 for P3,000 so you can swim and snorkel for an UNLIMITED number of hours around Sumilon. Then, if you plan to spend the night, you can just check in her resort.

The island across this resort is Sumilon, Cebu, another great island resort, I've read. It has white beaches, a lagoon, and a lot more scenic spots. Chieko and I would have gone had we not had plans on snorkeling and beachineering in Moalboal.

The island across this resort is Sumilon, Cebu, another great island resort, I’ve read. It has white beaches, a lagoon, and a lot more scenic spots. Chieko and I would have gone had we not had plans on snorkeling and beachineering in Moalboal.

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